For many years now, the area has been known for producing large-scale bonsai trees, which are grown and pruned into the shapes of Asian holy animals (dragon, phoenix, turtle and qilin), or others in the 12 Chinese Zodiacs.
As elsewhere in East Asia, Vietnamese believe that decorating their houses with trees and flowers which have lucky names (Phat Tai or Good Fortune), or shapes of powerful symbols like a dragon, will bring luck in the new year.
As next year will be the Year of Dragon according to the traditional calendar, Nguyen Van Cong, a local artisan, said he was in the process of finishing 30 dragon-shaped bonsais out of the more than 100 orders he received for the high season.
Standing out from the rest was a pair of 54-meter long bonsai which Cong has been working on for more than half a year now.
The pair is just as impressive as another pair he produced for the Da Lat Flower Festival in 2009, he recalled, which was later put on display during celebrations for the 1,000-year Anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi, in 2010.
According to the artisan, he had to put together 40 separate trees with enormous help from his trained co-workers to make the final products. “The type of tree that is best for pruning and grafting into large animal shapes is the Ficus stricta [or cay si in Vietnamese],” the experienced Cong said.
He has also made bonsai trees featuring pagoda or house shapes as decorations for many resorts and tourist destinations; however the most popular order this year was dragon-like bonsais in different positions.
According to a local, Cong’s workshop is well known in the area for putting out bonsai products of the largest size, variety, and artistic quality.
Bui Thanh Liem, head of the Agricultural and Rural Development Department of Cho Lanh District, said artisans like Cong provide more than 10 million bonsai products for the market every year, 50 percent of which are sold during the New Year season.
Most of the orders these gardeners have received are also dragon-shaped bonsais, he said, as many believe the dragon is a holy symbol which can bring luck and good fortune to the household.
Ngo Tuan Kiet, another artisan, said he has delivered more than 30 pairs of the mythical animals, each of which is 5 – 7 meters in length, to his customers who placed their orders in the beginning of the year.
He is now making a large pair that is 12 meters long. Kiet said that although demand for the products is rising, the price for production still remains stable.
A pair of bonsai trees that are 5 – 7 meters long costs VND 14 – 17 million each, he said.